After the adrenaline faded, and life entered into the new normal, my wife and I wanted to resume our weekly watching of one of our then favorite TV shows, The X-files. I had a thought, though in passing, that there was no way I could really watch this show, even with fairly good discernment, with my then just weeks-old daughter in the same room. I know it was a silly thought, but that show had heavy themes, and sometimes disturbing images, and the idea of viewing those images, and holding my newborn at the same time, never quite settled with me.
We resumed watching the show.
That was almost ten years ago.
Since then, my relationship with the television has changed, and my relationship with visual entertainment has changed, as well.
As of today, my family and I have lived without a subscription to a cable service for one year. And we have survived.
We. Have. Survived.
So I thought I would share a few of the things in the next few blogs, specifically about what I’ve learned this year. Take it or leave it, but rest assured that canceling our cable subscription, and rethinking our visual entertainment was a struggle, and led to some interesting conversations, but it was one of the best decisions we have ever made as a family.
There have been some interesting dynamics in our decision to cancel cable. In terms of economics, we floated that decision often, but opted to find cuts elsewhere, simply because our children were young and still watched some very good learning programs. In all honesty, too, my wife and I were not completely ready to do without the programs we watched. So the economics of the decision never amounted to anything substantial. Nevertheless, it was a conversation that surfaced every couple of months, when we took fresh looks at our budget. It was the same conversation for the better part of three or four years.
In the two months prior to making this decision though, some interesting things began to happen, that were not connected to the budget debate, and those things eventually pushed us to what we saw as a fairly radical decision. Let these serve as the beginning of the end, of sorts.
About a year before we cancelled our subscription, we added the DVR feature to our subscription package, and our DVR was filled with programs that my daughters had either recorded, or what we recorded for them. “The Brady Bunch” was one of those, and becoming a favorite. Recording a television show, though, meant that the commercials in those shows were also being recorded. And those commercials were less-than-appropriate.
It would be often, then, that one of my daughters would forget to forward through the commercials. (The oldest daughter, at the time, was eight.) Upon that forgetfulness, then, they would be offered a commercial of a new reality show program on TV Land at the time, called The Cougar. Needless to say, I was not at all pleased with what my eight-year-old, and my six-year-old, could potentially watch in just thirty seconds.
And commercials, to me, had abandoned the family friendly content. As an NFL fan, there were times when, watching the games lives, in the day, or the evening, several commercial spots were featured, selling products that involved physical intimacy of some sort. Little ears in my house were being exposed to words that I was not ready to discuss. Inadvertently, then, I was allowing my daughters to hear, and see, images and sentences that, for me, were not the most appropriate.
The NFL games themselves, too, were becoming a disagreeable thing to watch. In addition to the broadcast of the game, television networks had increased their shots to cheerleaders, and, mostly, the cheerleaders’ activities and dress were becoming less-than-appropriate. Thus, my daughters were exposed to images of girls, and women, that were incredibly suggestive.
There were two incredible frustrations about that. I was not at all pleased that my daughters were being exposed to an idea that women are only to be flaunted and displayed. Nor did I want my daughters to see my indirect approval of those images, even if they were at the worship of the all-important NFL.
So the decision was made. I unplugged the cable box and returned it.
We told our girls, initially, that it was to save money for vacation, unsure, at the time, of how, exactly, to tell them we were really doing them a favor. In time, though, we told them the real reason. But these two frustrations were large enough to lead us to the decision. They were the final factors in a decision that took ten years to make.
Obviously, though, there are lots more to share. Philosophical reasons. Moral reasons. And how did we ever fill the time we once spent watching television?
I’ll discuss those in some later posts. But be sure of this, though: we survived.
Keep reading. Part two is right here.